Home PeopleHoboken Girl of the Week Celebrating Black History Month: Local Ladies That Inspire Us

Celebrating Black History Month: Local Ladies That Inspire Us

by Jordan and Joelle Hernandez
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Women are, simply put, powerful. Local ladies all over Hudson County are doing some seriously amazing work within our communities. This month, however, we’re taking a very special moment to celebrate and honor the women of color who make our community so great. From fitness instructors to PR mavens and local politicians to self-made business mamas, our community is filled with female powerhouses that are women of color. Keep reading to learn more about them and celebrate Black History month with us.

black history month hoboken new jersey

Amanda Robinson, Commercial Dancer, Model, Fitness Trainer, Media Personality, + Host 

amanda robinson

{Photo credit: @_arizzy}

Follow her on IG: @_arizzy 

This fitness diva is always on the move. Her non-traditional journey has made her into the performer she is today. 

How did you get into your current career? What was your path like?

My path was a bit of a roller coaster. I began dancing at the age of three, competed nationally my entire childhood, and was awarded a full scholarship to study at the School of American Ballet {SAB} in Lincoln Center. Each year we were given annual evaluations at SAB. After many years of training, my mother was told I had a very athletic build, to put it nicely, and that I would never make the company as a New York City Ballerina. They encouraged my mother to have me see a nutritionist, take Pilates, and work to lean/lengthen my muscles. My mother withdrew me from the school and life went on as normal continuing to dance, study hard, and graduate college. 

Post-college, I auditioned to be an NBA Dancer for the Brooklyn Nets Dance Team and made the squad, which was a dream come true. After many years of busting my butt, things were falling into place nicely and I became team captain. I also signed with two major agencies in NYC, Bloc Talent and State Management, as well as dove into the fitness industry as a captivating coach. Did I ever think I would make a career from pursuing my passion for movement and dance – NEVER. Would I go back and change anything, nope. Everything happens for a reason and everything that’s meant for you arrives right on time. 

Can you describe a typical day?

As a freelance artist and trainer, my days are always different, which is the best part. I generally spend my mornings/evening providing empowering training sessions or creating programming for them. As an artist and model, a lot of my time is spent on set for media shoots, going to auditions, castings, taking educational workshops to fine-tune my skills, as well as network in my industry. I am my brand, so it’s important I allocate time to create, produce, and share compelling content. The hustle never stops, but that’s what continues to fuel my fire. 

How has your heritage impacted your work?

My heritage has been a huge driving force in my motivation to be the best in my endeavors. Growing up as a ballerina and model in the entertainment industry, I noticed a huge lack of diversity in this realm. I never saw anyone on TV or in magazines that looked like me. I hated my curly hair, my dark brown eyes, and did as much as I could to make my look more in line with American beauty ideals. As I got older, I realized how ridiculous this was and how freeing it was to be my natural self. Rather than letting this deter me from reaching my goals, I used this as inspiration to push other young creatives to follow their dreams despite the odds while continuing to stay true to themselves. My mother’s side of the family is from Jamaica and I actually return to the motherland every year to do charity work. I provide self-esteem, empowerment, and dance workshops to the youth. Out of all my projects, it’s the most rewarding to see those beautiful black babies in action as well as let them know that they truly can be and do anything they put their mind too. 

Who are other WOC in your field that inspire you?

Ally Love, Taylor Walker Fit, Siobhan St. John, and Deija Riley Athletics.

What do you hope for the level of diversity in your field in the future?

I hope for it to continue to increase exponentially so that POC can continue to develop and build generational wealth to pass down, invest, and uplift our people for the future. 

See More: We’re Totally Crushing on These 13 Local Ladies this Galentine’s Day

Fatou Keita, Entrepreneur, Owner of FK’s Cleaning Services, Photography Instructor at Qua’s Creative Art Center, Event Decor, and Favors Specialist 


{Photo credit: @beautybyfk}

Follow her on IG: @beautybyfk 

Running a business, side-hustles, and taking care of children is no small task, but this Jersey City queen makes it look easy. 

How did you get into your current career? What was your path like? 

I got my current career by applying myself and using social media marketing to target my main audience. I posted ads for my cleaning ads on local mom groups on social media networks and manually posted my ads in park bulletins. My path was a bit challenging, but I knew consistency was key in order to build clientele. 

Can you describe a typical day?

A typical day consists of me doing my daily mom duties in the morning, then I commute to my first client for two hours, my second client for three hours, and depending on what I have scheduled, I may have on-call clients. If not, I’ll come home and devote about two to three hours promoting my photography, event decor, or housekeeping. I make sure I do this consistently so that I’m booked within the next few days or the remainder of the week.

How has your heritage impacted your work?

Watching my mother work hard despite the barriers she faced as an immigrant from West Africa has made me the well-rounded entrepreneur that I am now. My mother never relied on one source of income. While working at her nine to five, she sold African imported attire, and purchased wholesale costume jewelry and would resell it for a profit. I always looked up to how she juggled multiple streams of income just to take care of her family. 

Who are other WOC in your field that inspire you? 

Madam CJ Walker inspires me because she was one of the first black female entrepreneurs to succeed in a challenging field especially with all the barriers she faced during the early 1900s. Just like Walker, I hope to bring my daughter into the entrepreneurial world and hope she can carry the torch for it to be a generational business. 

Current day and local women of color in my field that inspire me are Nyquazah Hawkins. She is the creative director of Qua’s Creative Art Center, which is the first art center for kids in Jersey City’s urban community. Javia Jackson, creator of DopeMomBehavior™️ and Cliché Convos. Also, Jasmine Wiggins, celebrity hairstylist and owner of The Wiggins Collection. There are plenty more, these women, to name a few, are notable women of color in Hudson county that continue to inspire me and motivate me in the work that I do. 

What do you hope for the level of diversity in your field in the future? 

 I hope more people of color can open up businesses in Urban neighborhoods and learn about financial literacy, how to legitimize and LLC their businesses, and learning how to build credit in order to apply for business loans with banks. 

 Sabrina Browne, Account Director at Burson Cohn + Wolfe

sabrina browne 7

Follow her on IG: @thetasteofs 

A familiar face to Hoboken Girl,  Sabrina loves her city and her work. Whether in the office or not, she is fierce and taking her world by storm. 

How did you get into your current career? What was your path like? 

In 2013, I accepted my first PR role as a junior account executive. Seven years later, I am an account director working with the brands where you bank, drinks you enjoy at brunch, and countries you visit on vacation. In between these roles, I have learned to work smart, build relationships, and always be resilient. Obstacles will arise in your career, but the opportunities for success are even greater. I encourage all young women of color to remain focused on what you want in your career and be committed to making it happen. The secret to my success is my unwavering tenacity. 

Can you describe a typical day? 

I start each day with prayer, giving thanks to the Lord for a new day and asking that He keep my family and friends safe. From there, it’s outfit, hair, and makeup — then onward to the Hoboken PATH station. When I’m not reading Fortune’s CEO Daily on my commute, I’m jamming to Meghan Thee Stallion. She’s a force in the music industry and her lyrics get me pumped for the day ahead. Once in the office, I cover off on any urgent emails, check my to-do list, and begin my client action items. From pitching business media to coordinating international press trips, planning experiential events to developing thought leadership, each day is different and that’s why I love PR.

How has your heritage impacted your work? 

I am the proud daughter of Belgian-West African immigrants, working at the world’s third-largest communications firm. Each day, I am reminded of the sacrifices my parents made for me to be successful in the United States. Part of that success is knowing who I am and being proud of where I come from. My diverse heritage allows me to bring a global perspective to the PR industry, ensuring my clients can authentically connect with today’s consumer. 

Who are other WOC in your field that inspire you? 

I am inspired by the dynamic and diverse women who have shaped the PR industry, including Judy Jackson {WPP}, Judith Harrison {Weber Shandwick}, and Soon Mee Kim {Porter-Novelli}. Each has carved out their own paths in the industry, lifting other women as they climb the corporate ladder and empowering the next generation of PR leaders. Moreover, they are all so engaging and personable. When you’re in their presence, you feel seen, heard and valued.

What do you hope for the level of diversity in your field in the future? 

The PR industry has made strides to become more inclusive and diverse but work still remains and we all play a role in driving measurable change. Less than 10% of PR professionals are African-American nationwide, according to the Bureau of Labor Statics. I am part of that group, and I am working diligently to increase our industry’s numbers and help underrepresented talent emerge at the forefront. Beyond counseling BCW’s Fortune 500 clients, I also co-lead the African-American Employee Resource {AAER} Group for the New York market. In this role, I develop personal and professional development programs for African-American employees to learn, grow, and thrive across the firm. 

Candice Wynter, Communication Strategist in Philanthropy 

candice wynter

Follow her on IG: @candancewynter 

Originally from Florida, Candice made her way up to the Tri-State area and has been spending her time and talents in the world of public relations. But, she is not doing so without remembering where she came from and why her passion is strong. 

 How did you get into your current career? What was your path like? 

 It was by no means a linear one. I began my career in journalism, held odd jobs at a nonprofit art museum and an environmental film festival, wanted to be a screenwriter for a minute there, and worked at a top global public relations agency before I ended up in philanthropy. Each experience made me a better communicator and a better storyteller. I hope the rest of my career path is just as full of diverse opportunities.

Can you describe a typical day? 

Communications is special in the sense that it touches all parts of an organization. But this means that any time you ask a communications person this question, they respond with something along the lines of “it’s different every day.” This is true, but I’ll try to be more descriptive for you. 

Communications projects on a typical day for me could range from anything such as strategic planning, to writing and pitching opinion editorials, to developing messaging, to monitoring an issue in the news, and to managing social media and website accounts. I also spend a lot of time developing and maintaining systems and processes to the improve the way we communicate with each other, internally and externally.

How has your heritage impacted your work?

My heritage deeply influences and empowers my work. I grew up in a multicultural, working-class household in the south, where I learned about my racial and cultural differences from a young age. Because I had three different cultures, my parents made a concerted effort to teach me about all of them. What this really meant is that I heard, watched, and read a lot of stories. It wasn’t long before I fell in love with all forms of storytelling and was brainstorming ways to make it my full-time career. 

It helped that my grandmother was a well-known political and court reporter in Jamaica, where she was feared and respected for her ability to bring the facts to the public with objective clarity. Her career actually inspired my studies in journalism and communications. But I knew that working under the larger media umbrella in this country wouldn’t be without its challenges for a woman who looked like me. It’s no secret that the industry has a diversity and equity problem. This is always at the front of my mind, and it’s why I strive to approach my communications work today from a racial and gender justice lens.

Who are other WOC in your field that inspire you? 

There are so many fabulous women of color communicators and storytellers right now. Though she’s not directly in the communications field – I’ve been so inspired by the visionary director Ava Duvernay recently. Her work isn’t afraid to address social issues, like criminal justice, head-on. 

 What do you hope for the level of diversity in your field in the future? 

I hope there are more diversity and equity among the various communicators and storytellers behind our media systems.

Joyce E. Watterman, Council President for the City of Jersey City 

joyce watterman

Follow her on IG: @joycewatterman 

As just the second female council president and the first African-American woman city councilmember, Joyce E. Watterman is making new black history this year. She credits her faith in helping her get to this level. 

How did you get into your current career? What was your path like?

My path was like most, one that was not easy, smooth, or any other adjectives that describe something “hiccup-free.” Born and raised in Jersey City, I’ve always loved this city and the diversity it exhibits. As a pastor, I’d try to do as much as I could for the community by hosting free events and the summer program I created for kids. When Mayor Fulop asked me to join his ticket, I didn’t really grasp what the role fully encompassed, however, I knew God had bigger plans for me and I had to walk in the direction He pointed in. Having that ideology is what I try to center most of my votes and actions around. It was me learning through trial and error how I can be most effective as an elected official that fundamentally placed me as the first African-American woman Council President in Jersey City.

Can you describe a typical day?

I don’t think I have “typical” days due to the mere fact that something seemingly always emerges that I have to address, regardless of what I had planned on my schedule for the day. Whether that be attending a ribbon-cutting ceremony welcoming a new small business in the community or drafting laws that can help the functionality of the city. I believe there is always something for me to work on to help make Jersey City a better city to live in.

How has your heritage impacted your work?

Being a woman of color in a leadership position, I understand the debt that I owe to my heritage. It was those who came before me making sacrifices in hopes that they would be able to clear a path for someone like me to sit in this very seat. Also, because my mother was a sharecropper, I am very much aware that I can’t solely think about myself in this role. Instead, I must use this opportunity to be a voice for the issues plaguing the community and making sure any legislation I vote on is ultimately increasing the quality of life here for all residents.

Who are other WOC in your field that inspire you?

Two elected officials come to mind — the first is Congresswoman Maxine Waters. She has this kind of spunk and courage that often women cannot exude out of fear of how we will be perceived in a male-dominated field. Lastly, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver because her story is quite amazing going from assemblywoman to the state’s first African-American woman lieutenant governor and to watch her continue to accomplish new heights inspires me in knowing the sky’s the limit for WOC.

What do you hope for the level of diversity in your field in the future?

I hope and entrust that the next generation of leaders in government value the premise of diversity not just culturally but all categories that are subjected to discrimination. I hope that one day we can live in a society where people of color running for higher office has become so normalized that an African-American woman running for president is a norm without any attached stigmas.

Read More: Hudson County’s Latina Leaders: Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

 Vanessa Rissetto MS, RD, CDN, of Vanessa Rissetto RD

vanessa rissettord

Follow her on IG: @vanessarissettord 

Food is the center of life and this Hoboken girl is proving that we can all stay true to our cultures and be healthy — all while juggling staying healthy herself and spending quality time with the people she loves most. 

How did you get into your current career? What was your path like? 

Dietetics was a second career for me. I wanted a way to help people in an actionable way but didn’t want to go to medical school. I believe I’ve been able to accomplish that and for that I am most proud.

Can you describe a typical day? 

Ha —every day is different! There’s always exercise, dealing with students, counseling students, teaching students, cooking, homework with my kids, games with my kids – if anyone wants to play the game of Life call us, we love it —somewhere in there I walk my dog, meditate, talk to my best friend Robyn, and chill with my husband {in silence!}.

How has your heritage impacted your work?  

Being first-generation helps me identify with other cultures as it relates to food. Food is a big part of people’s cultures and usually part of the main traditions that stay with them when they immigrate to America. Let’s face it, the kitchen is usually the epicenter of the home and if someone is used to eating something daily you have to make it fit. 

Once when I was working in the hospital I had a patient who had recently had a liver transplant and his physician told him he could no longer have grilled grapefruit for breakfast which is what he had every day for the past 50 years. He was from Bangladesh and apparently it’s a traditional breakfast. I went to the pharmacists first and asked if they could adjust the medication so he could still enjoy what he loved. Spoiler: they could. If I hadn’t grown up with such an appreciation of food and culture, I wouldn’t have tried to think outside of the box and figure out how this man could keep having his favorite meal — and most importantly something that reminded him of home.

Who are other WOC in your field that inspire you? 

My good friend and colleague Maya Feller is an amazing dietitian and also is doing a lot for our industry when it comes to the discussion regarding race and nutrition. It’s a conversation that needs to be had and she’s bringing it to the forefront.

What do you hope for the level of diversity in your field in the future? 

The largest consumers of health and wellness are women of color, yet we are largely underrepresented in the field of nutrition and dietetics. There are so many complex reasons for this, which is why I took my most recent position as the Director of the Dietetic Internship at NYU. I think if people can see that there are people in leadership that look like them, they may be more apt to want to explore that as a career.

Angela V. McKnight, Assemblywoman and Founder + CEO of AngelaCARES, Inc. 

angela mcknight

Follow  her on IG: @angelavmcknight 

As the founder + CEO of AngelaCARES Inc. and a local assemblywoman, Angela V. McKnight works hard to make our community great.

How did you get to your current career? What was your path like? 

I wanted to be on the side of the village who helped seniors, caregivers, and youth, so I started my nonprofit AngelaCARES to serve my community. Since the work of AngelaCARES has been significant and continues to be, it was noticed throughout the county. This led to me being asked to run for public office as the Assemblywoman. I am forever grateful that I was asked, as I can assist, help and support more people.

Can you describe a typical day? 

A typical day for me is that I go to the gym for self-care. This is very important to me. Afterward, I go to both offices {Assembly and AngelaCARES} where I am working with team members, meeting constituents, clients, advocates, etc. In addition, I drive down to Trenton for committee meetings or a voting session. Furthermore, I answer calls, media inquiries, and emails as well as interact on social media.

How has your heritage impacted your work? 

My heritage has and continues to impact my work by allowing me to use my voice and skills to do what is right with and for the people especially African-Americans. I am forever grateful for my ancestors paving the way for me to be here today. I take pride in honoring my ancestors. Their struggles continue to give me power and wisdom to stand up for what is right and never let anyone deter me from doing the right thing.

Who are other WOC in your field that inspire you? 

Shanique Speight {NJ Assemblywoman}, Britnee Timberlake {NJ Assemblywoman}, Shavonda Sumter {NJ Assemblywoman}, Linda Carter {NJ Assemblywoman}, Vierlina Reynolds Jackson {NJ Assemblywoman}, Cleopatra Tucker {NJ Assemblywoman}, and Mila Jasey {NJ Assemblywoman}.

What do you hope for the level of diversity in your field in the future? 

My hope for the level of diversity in my field of work is that more women of color can have a seat at the table to make policies for the betterment of our country. 

Denise Ridley, Councilwoman in Jersey City Ward A 

denise ridley

Follow her on IG: @iamdridley 

Denise Ridley is a local Councilwoman in Jersey City who is making waves and strengthening the community one day at a time.

How did you get into your current career? What was your path like? 

The first campaign I worked on was Al Gore’s presidential campaign. After that, I worked on campaigns for Virginia state delegates, school board candidates, mayoral campaigns, etc. I was elected Committeewoman in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2019 elections. I have always been interested in politics and community service and decided to run for the Ward A council seat in 2017.

Can you describe a typical day? 

There are no typical days as a Jersey City councilperson. You have to be ready to switch gears at any moment. Most days are filled with meetings with residents, city departments, and local organizations. Between meetings, I respond to resident requests and work on ordinances and resolutions.  Most evenings are filled with flag raisings, fundraisers, community meetings, or local cultural events. There is always something to do in this awesome city.

 How has your heritage impacted your work? 

As the first African-American elected to the Ward A council seat in Jersey City, my heritage plays a major role in my day-to-day duties. Living in such a diverse city and knowing that there are still many firsts to occur, reminds me to remain inclusive of all cultures. Being a first reminds me to keep in mind that the work I do is laying the groundwork for those that will come after I leave the position. It is important for any future African-American taking the seat, but just as important for any minority that may hold the seat in the future.

Who are other WOC in your field that inspire you? 

Other Women of Color in politics that inspire me are Senator Kamala Harris, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver, and the late former Councilwoman Frances Thompson to name a few.

What do you hope for the level of diversity in your field in the future? 

My hope is that we will see more people of color and more women in the Ward A council seat.  I would like to see more people step out of the box and go for positions that typically haven’t been held by someone that looks like them.  We shouldn’t let our differences hold us back from contributing to the growth of our City if we truly have something of value to give to all of our great residents.

We’re so proud to have these amazing women working hard each day to help make our community great — well done, ladies!

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